6. From Classical to Neoclassical Utilitarianism

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Moral Foundations of Politics (PLSC 118)

In this economics-oriented lecture, Professor Shapiro introduces neoclassical utilitarianism as it was formulated by economist Vilfredo Pareto and further described by Francis Edgeworth, examining such concepts as indifference curves, transitivity, the Pareto principle, and the Edgeworth box diagram. It is revealed that the main departure of neoclassical utilitarianism from classical utilitarianism was that it did away with Bentham's troublesome interpersonal comparisons of utility. However, Professor Shapiro explains that, if classical utilitarians didn't take the differences between individuals seriously enough, neoclassical utilitarians take these differences hyper-seriously. If classical utilitarianism can be interpreted as a radically redistributive doctrine, neoclassical utilitarianism becomes the exact opposite; that is, a doctrine that is quite friendly to the status quo.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Introduction and Class Agenda
09:03 - Chapter 2. Neoclassical Theory of Microeconomics
20:58 - Chapter 3. Analysis of the Distribution of Utility between Two People
31:51 - Chapter 4. The Edgeworth Box Diagram and Pareto Possibility Frontier
39:42 - Chapter 5. Comparing Classical and Neoclassical Utilitarianism

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://open.yale.edu/courses

This course was recorded in Spring 2010.